Santa Justa Lift

The Santa Justa Lift (Portuguese: Elevador de Santa Justa, pronounced ), also called Carmo Lift (Portuguese: Elevador do Carmo, ), is a elevator/lift in civil parish of Santa Justa, in the historical city of Lisbon, situated at the end of Rua de Santa Justa. It connects the lower streets of the Baixa with the higher Largo do Carmo (Carmo Square.) Since its construction, the Lift has become a tourist attraction for Lisbon as, among the urban lifts in the city, Santa Justa is the only remaining vertical one. Others, including Elevador da Glória and Elevador da Lavra, are funiculars, and the other Lift constructed around the period, the Elevator of São Julião has since been demolished.


The hills of Lisbon, has always presented a problem for accessibility, especially in a time when people were required to move on foot or being pulled by horse (or other animal). In 1874, in order to facilitate the movement between the main Baixa and the Carmo Square, the civil and military engeinner Roberto Arménio presented a project to the Lisbon municipal council. A similar project was suggested in 1876, that included raillines that would be pulled by animals, with an inclined plane. Until 1785, this system continued to function in the zone around Carmo.

On 1 June 1882, the council licensed Raul Mesnier to construct and explore alternative plans for an inclined transport, moved by mechanical means, following a petition a month before by founder and representative of the Companhia dos Ascensores Mecânicos de Lisboa.

The Santa Justa Lift was designed by Raul Mesnier de Ponsard, an engineer born in Porto to French parents. Raul Ponsard was an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel and returned to Lisbon with grand design ideas. In 1896, Raul Mesnier petitoned for the concession of this project, in order to establish the Escadinhas de Santa Justa, a request that was contested by Henry Lusseau. At the same time, the Serviços de Obras da Câmara (Municipal Public Services) supported Mesnier's petition, and the concession to authorize the the construction and exploration of the Raul Mesnier du Ponsard Elevator was approved. Yet, it would take two years to recieve a provisionary license to construct the structure. In 1899, the Empresa do Elevador do Carmo (Company of the Elevator of Carmo) was founded (constituted by principal partners Raul Mesnier du Ponsard, medicial surgeon João Silvestre de Almeida and the Marquess of Praia e Monforte, António Borges de Medeiros Dias da Câmara e Sousa) in order to secure the permanent concession of the elevator project for a period of 99 years.

In 1900, the formal contract was signed between the Municipal Council of Lisbon and the Empresa do Elevador do Carmo (extinct in 1939), on which the working group was obligated to present a project for an elevator in a period of six months; planning on the construction had already begun with the Lisbon branch of the metal constructors Cardoso D'Argent & Cia. (founded in 1897) in Junqueira. The founder, Manuel Cardoso, had already been placed in charge of the offices of firm Empresa Industrial Portuguesa and responsible for the workers in the Elevador de Santa Justa project. By the middle of the year, the land that would be the main site was already in movement, establishing the footings and equipment house (2 June of the same year).

On 31 August 1901, King Carlos inaugurates the metal bridge and awning, in a ceremony that included members of the royal family, the members of the Elevator company, Raul Mesnier du Ponsard, and various members of the high nobility and journalists. Yet, its operation would wait some time: the operating car, was ongly inaugurated in 1902, in the presence of the managing director of the concessionary company, Dr. Silvestre de Almeida, accompanied by journalists and other invited guests, in a ceremony presided by the Secretary-General of the Civil Government.

The operating concession was given to the company Lisbon Electric Tramway Ltd. in 1905. Originally powered by steam, it was converted to electrical operation in 1907, and the respective concessionary company would buy the Elevator in 1913, from the Empresa do Elevador do Carmo.


In 1943, the Lisbon Electric Tramway Ltd. solicited the city council to authorize the transfer of the elevator to the Companhia da Carris. The process was approved, under the condition that its operation should be integrated into the transport network, with the Companhia da Carris as the principal.

By 1973, a contract was signed between the municipal council of Lisbon, the Companhia da Carris and the Lisbon Electric Tramway Ltd., transfering the Elevator definitively into the city's historical tram network.

In July 2002, the Santa Justa Elevator celebrated its first centennary; it along with the three remaining cable railways of Lavra, Glória and Bica were classified as National Monuments that year.

After remodelling and renovation, on February 2006, the Elevator walkway was reopened for the general public and tourists.


It is included on the historical guides of Lisbon, within the Pombaline Baixa area isolated between several older historical buildings in the quarter. It is situated in the Escadinhas de Santa Justa which connects the Baixa to the Rua do Carmo. The Escadinhas are actually part of the northeastern urban wall of the Baixa and west of the Rua de Santa Justa. Access is established by the elevator to many of the important zones of the city. To the north, towards the Rossio (Praça D. Pedro V and Avenida da Liberdade); to the south, the Praça do Comércio abd the river zone; while in the upper zone, there are access to the Largo do Carmo, the Trindade, Church of São Roque and theBairro Alto quarter. In addition, the panormaic views allow glimpses of the Castle of São Jorge, the Tagus River, the lower part of the Pombaline Baixa, the National Theatre D. Maria II, while the upper entrance permits a view of the ruins of the Monastery of Nossa Senhora do Vencimento do Monte do Carmo.

The Elevator is a vertical structure, developed along the Rua de Santa Justa, constituted by a metalic tower, observation platform, walkway and base. Its base includes four vertical columns, each composed of two pillars. The largest part of the structure runs parallel to the Rua de Santa Justa. With a height of 45 metres, covering seven stories, the tower includes two elevator cabins, decorated in wood, mirrors and windows, and an initial capacity for 24 passengers in each (updated to 29 people later). The structure includes a dozen transverse beams, forming a double lattice, supported at the top by foundations at the Escadinhas de Santa Justa. On the sides of the elevator, the walkway is articulated by means of bearings, as well as on the pillars, which is articulated at the base.

On the top floor is a kiosk and lookout, with panoramic views of the city, while connections to the floors below are made (in addition to the elevator) by two spiral staircases, with different patterns on each storey. The main machinery was installed at the base of the Elevator, while at the exit to the Largo do Carmo there is a veranda to allow circulation. The corridor that passes above the structure, was transformed into a terrace, and exits to Largo do Carmo through an iron gate. The space destined the electrical equipment was located under the Escadinhas, in a space set aside for this purpose, under a vaulted ceiling.

The Lift is decorated in a Neo-Gothic style in iron. Since this was a new material at the time of its construction, it is symbolic of the technical and memorial construction from this period, representing the culture of the 1900s, when the structure and elevators were considered a magical innovation and portent of a modern age.